Documentary History of American Water-works

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New England States Connecticut Windham

Windham, Connecticut

Windham was incorporated in 1692.

A group of local residents near the Village Green in the village of Windham Center formed an aqueduct company sometime before May, 1803.  Eleven of them petitioned the legislature on May 16, 1803 praying for incorporation, as they had "already expanded considerable sums of money" in pursuit of their object.  The legislature did not grant the charter for reasons unknown, and another petition was submitted in May, 1807, which was granted.

The Aqueduct Company in the Town of Windham was incorporated by Jabez Clark, Benjamin Dyer, Elisha White, John Taintor, Charles Taintor, John Staniford Jr., Benjamin Brewster, Samuel Gray, John Byrne, Henry Webb for the purpose of bringing water into the town street of said Windham in subterraneous pipes. The language in the charter is more specific than similar documents, stating that water from a spring on or near Jennings Lane "shall be conveyed into the town street, and to the height of land south of the meeting-house in said Windham, in the following manner, viz. from said fountain to John Taintor's, from thence to the houses of Benjamin Dyer and Jabez Clark, and from thence to the barn of Charles Taintor, and from thence to the houses of John Staniford and John Byrne, Henry Webb and Charles Taintor, on the height of land aforesaid, and from thence to the house, or houses of such person or persons as shall hereafter be associated with said proprietors."  Furthermore, it was stated that "no branch or aqueduct
except such as are already in operation shall be taken from the main branch or aqueduct described in this act, until it shall have passed the dwelling house of the said Charles Taintor unless to some out house or barn appertaining to the dwelling-house of some of the proprietors before-named, without the consent of each individual member of said corporation."  

The charter was amended in 1820 to clarify that rights in the aqueduct transferred with the property served by it.  The system only served a small number of customers around the Village Green, supplying 14 families in a 1915.  The company apparently existed into the 1960s, when the City of Willimantic may have offered water service to this village.

A separate aqueduct had served the village of South Windham for nearly 40 years in 1881, when new pipes were installed.

Around 1853 a water system for fire protection was installed in Willimantic with "a three-inch pipe laid along Main street from the Smithville Company’s mills down to the post office and up High street to the house of Robert Hooper, near Valley street."

Efforts to form a company to own a water system in the Borough of Willimantic were resisted by local residents, who voted to form a public water supply and received permission from the legislature in 1883.  This system was operating by 1885 and was taken over by the City of Willimantic when it was incorporated in 1893.  The City was unincorporated in 1982 and the Town of Windham assumed responsibility for the water system. 

Water is currently provided by the Town of Windham Water Works.

1803 Petition for incorporation of an aqueduct in the Town of Windham, May 16, 1803

1807 Petition for incorporation of an aqueduct in the Town of Windham, May 30, 1807

1807 An Act to establish an Aqueduct Company in the Town of Windham, 1807

1820 An Act in addition to an Act, entitled "An act to establish an Aqueduct Company, in the town of Windham." May 23, 1820

1881 Willamantic Chronicle
November 16, 1881: South Windham - A new aqueduct is talked of and is expected to be placed in position immediately, to replace the one which now supplies many of the residents in the north part of the village with water. The old pipe is of lead and has seen a service of over forty years.
November 23, 1881: South Windham - P. Lewis has contract for digging and filling the trench for the new aqueduct which is about ready to get into position.

1882 Willamantic Chronicle
November 15, 1882: Borough Meeting.
The largest specially warned borough meeting that has been held for sometime was that convened at Armory hall Monday afternoon and it represented a good proportion of taxpayers. It was thought that there might be a clashing of forces of more than usual severity but the seekers for this kind of amusement were sadly disappointed for the entire programme passed of with the greatest expedition and serenity. The first clause in the warning expressed dis-satisfaction at the vote passed at a previous meeting awarding $400 damages to Chester A. Vinton for damages received on his person last winter and was disposed of by indefinitely postponing action.
The next clause called for an amendment to the borough charter whereby water works may be built by its provisions. This part provoked a little discussion and it was apparent that sympathy for the measure was largely prevalent. The meeting listened patiently to the inevitable chronic grumblers who oppose every person, suggestion, measure and project which is offered for the public and then a resolution was passed in substance as follows: The warden and burgesses are instructed to petition the next General Assembly of the State of Connecticut for an amendment to the borough charter, empowering the warden and burgesses and freemen to supply said borough with water for public and private use, and to bond said borough for cost of same. Also, to choose Don F. Johnson, Charles E. Congdon and Henry N. Wales a Committee to act with the Warden and Burgesses in procuring the same. Said amendment not to go into effect until it has been accepted by the Borough at a meeting especially called for the purpose, at which meeting the vote shall be taken by ballot, marked “Yes” and “No.”

1883 Authorizing the Borough of Willimantic to Supply Water, May 1, 1883

1889 History of Windham County, Connecticut, Richard M. Bayles
Page 326: The Willimantic Water Works are a development which may be said to have begun with the efforts of the mill owners to protect themselves and their surroundings from fire in the early years of their enterprise. The first water pipe system outside of such private enterprises was a three-inch pipe laid along Main street from the Smithville Company’s mills down to the post office and up High street to the house of Robert Hooper, near Valley street, about the year 1853. The expense was borne by the company and the property owners along the line, and the company contracted to work the pumps whenever the alarm of fire was given. The system proved efficient, and as large a stream could be sent out as can be obtained from any hydrant now in the borough. It is still kept in working order for use in case of emergencies.
After many years spent in discussing and proposing various schemes for supplying the village with water for the extinguishing of fires, a contract was finally made with the mill companies along the river to furnish power for pumping water through a system of pipes to be laid through the principal streets, with hydrants at convenient points. The mill owners were to be allowed for such service a rebate of one-half their taxes to the borough. Much opposition to the plan prevailed for a time, but it was finally put into execution with the decided support of the people of the borough. September 13th, 1873, the borough voted to allow the warden and burgesses to borrow money to lay the pipes. The work soon after ‘began and was continued, though opposition appeared at every step and it was impeded somewhat by perplexing litigation, which, however, did not succeed in preventing the execution of the plan. The system completed, was connected with the force pumps of the Smithville, Windham, and Linen companies, and the pressure attainable as 150 pounds to the square inch. This system seemed to be all that was required for protection against fires, but with the growth of the village a want soon became apparent for a system of supplying water for household purposes. In 1880 Messrs. Whiting, James E. and Willard T. Hayden applied to the general assembly for corporate privileges as a water company, with the necessary rights of entering upon property for the specified purposes, with the design of meeting this growing want. Through the influences brought to bear by the people of the borough, who were not in favor of water being supplied to the village by a private company, the incorporation was not effected.
In July, 1882, steps were taken to consider the practical questions regarding the establishment of public water works, and the idea became so popular that the borough, at a meeting November 13th, decided to ask the burgesses to petition the assembly for an amendment to their charter which would allow them to undertake such an enterprise. In accordance with such petition the amendment was granted at the May session of 1883. August 18th, 1883, the borough accepted the water charter by a ballot of 194 to 16. January 8th, 1884, George W. Burnham was elected water commissioner for one year, E. B. Sumner for two years--and Henry N. Wales for three years. The regular year begins January 1st. By a vote taken at a borough meeting held July 9th, 1884, it was decided, by a vote of 277 against 42, that public water works should be constructed to supply the village from the Natchaug river. The commissioners were at the same time authorized to issue bonds to the amount of $200,000 to carry out the plan. The bonds were in due time issued, and bore date October 1st, 1884, being in four equal classes, to run respectively fifteen, twenty, twenty-five and thirty years, bearing interest at four per cent. per annum. The work was then pushed forward. A dam and pumping station, and engineer’s house were erected at Conantville, about one and a half miles north of the village, on the Natchaug, and a reservoir was built on Hosmer mountain, south of the village. This reservoir has a capacity of five million gallons. More than twelve miles of iron pipes have been laid through the streets. The pumping capacity is two thousand gallons per minute. Water from the clear Natchaug stream is thus driven to the reservoir, which is elevated several hundred feet above the village, and thence it is led by pipes to the village, having pressure sufficient to cover any building in the place with a stream from a “line of hose. “The pressure is so great that in dealing with fires no engines are necessary."

1915 Ground Water in the Hartford, Stamford, Salisbury, Willimantic and Saybrook Areas, Connecticut, by Herbert E. Gregory and Arthur J. Ellis, Water-Supply Paper 374, U.. S. Geological Survey
Page 129: Windham Aqueduct Company, 1,200 gallons daily, 14 families supplied.

The Connecticut Historical Society has records of the Windham Aqueduct Company from 1807 to 1968.

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce